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Archive for November, 2008

My friend Carol and I had planned a trip to Sylvia Beach Hotel and then her new job intervened so Allan and I went instead.  He’d never been.  I wasn’t sure how he’d take to “the game” (Two Truths and a Lie) played at dinner but he did well with three stories:  his mother in law was a Marine, he used to be a Ba’hai and …oh, I forget the third, but he fooled everyone with the second story since having been married to a Ba’hai had him well versed in its lore.

I advise on a trip from the Peninsula to Sylvia Beach that you be sure to stop at Bear Creek Artichokes to lay in some excellent traveling snacks and condiment treats to take home.  In gardening season it’s a good plant nursery, as well.  It has limited offseason hours.

Bear Creek Artichokes

Also Allan had to see the thrilling Devil’s Punchbowl and a lighthouse…

where we quite liked this sign protecting the lighthouse landscaping:

Allan went to the very top and got a window view of the lighthouse park in the storm.

to the top of the lighthouse

It felt to me like a homecoming to arrive at the hotel.  I tracked down house cat Dickens…and eventually lured him into the E.B. White room where we spent the first night.

E.B. White room has the brown and white patterned bedspread.

For our second night, we moved into the more expensive Colette room.

Colette room

The “red raft” (named after the bed where she lounged when ill, I believe) became my reading spot, even better than the red chair because the raft had a view of the ocean.

Colette room

Carol would have liked the details of this room; maybe we’ll stay in it again next time.

Four of the rooms have fireplaces: Colette, Mark Twain, Agatha Christie…and the library.

Dickens the cat did not follow us to Colette, but Shelley the cat did.

Shelley, and a cool photo on the wall showing one house cat in the sink outside the room’s bathroom while another sits on the bed

On the red raft I gathered up and read every one of the room journals.  Should I tire of reading, I could gaze at the windy beach outside my window.

the raft, the journals, the view

When I’d finished all the journals from Colette, I nipped into Mark Twain and borrowed a couple from there.  One precocious high school girl wrote in several journals.  She endeared herself to me with her love of reading and I looked for her handwriting and tracked her through several journals. By now she would be an adult and, I hope, having a good life.

Next time I think perhaps the Mark Twain room would be the place to stay.  Look at that enticing stack of journals.

While I read, Allan explored the beach and the nearby town and spent time in the Sylvia Beach library, as did I, catching up on the library guest journals.

library and its view

He spotted and photographed this most perfect handwashing admonition in the bathroom off the library.

wash your hands

This would be right across the hall from the Herman Melville room with its Great White Bed.

I never want to leave the SBH but we had cats and work projects waiting for us at home.  We stopped in Depoe Bay for a bit on the way home.  I’d never realized what a fascinating small harbour I’d been passing on the mission to get to SBH as soon as possible.  The marina is entered through a dauntingly small passage through rock.

Depoe Bay

We took a detour on the Three Capes scenic route on the way home.  The area from Pacific City north to Oceanside reminds me a great deal of the Peninsula.  Next to Brewin’ in the Wind coffeeshop in Oceanside a string of old fashioned beach cabins looks like a great place to stay.

so beachy

There’s a certain kind of salty old beach cabin, a little rustic, a little mildewed, a little run down, that is hard to find nowadays.  These have probably been refurbished and have all mod cons, but I can dream.  I’d like to have my morning coffee at the corner table, and I do approve of the sentiments on the coffeeshop t-shirts.

Brewin’ in the Wind

Our last stop of interest at the north end of the Three Capes Route was Cape Meares, with the most beautiful park sign I have ever seen.

When you walk down the long path to the lighthouse, it’s a surprise to to find out that it’s a really short one!

Cape Meares lighthouse

February 2012:  Three and a half years have slipped away without a visit to Sylvia Beach, but Carol and I have reservations for April.  The E.B. White room has become Steinbeck and was booked, so for our inexpensive room night we’ll have Oscar Wilde, and for the expensive night we’ll have Mark Twain.  I hope that big stack of journals is waiting for me and that I can find out what happened to the prolific young writer who made so many entries and had such dreams.

P.S.  When I returned from this I wrote on 8 October 2008 in Facebook’s Sylvia Beach Hotel Lovers group (before SBH had its own FB page):

My favourite thing to do at SBH is to read the room journals. On my latest trip, I read all ten of the Colette journals, caught up on E.B. White and the library journals since last year, and managed to get my hands on a few from Tennessee Williams, Melville, and Mark Twain. Must stay in the Mark Twain room as it has LOTS of journals. Had I known the guests for that room did not show up Sat night, I would have snuck in there and stayed up reading!

There is a theme through the Mark Twain journals that I want to follow: an articulate teenager named Megan W____ wrote every year as she was growing up, and the other guests followed her story. I Googled her and I found a Megan W______ who is a successful chef. Does anyone here know her? Entries in the later journals were hoping that she had ended up with a good life…

I found out about Edna, an octagernarian who used to rent the RLS  [Robert Louis Stevenson] room for two months out of every summer from ’88 to perhaps the mid 90s or later.

Pat Hendersen is a name which recurs often in the library and dorm room diaries.

In one of the journals this time, I found this moving entry:

“This is the first time since 1962 that I have been back. As a child we stayed next door at the Gilmore Apts–a shabby companion to the Gilmore Hotel (now the SBH) next door. The apartment house fell victim to the 1962 storms but the tips of the foundations are still visible from the beach. In those days only the little sea cottages were nearby and a skating rink (now a parking lot) and the tiny business block which used to include a saltwater taffy store, a cheap shell souvenir shop and a mom and pop grocery.

“How odd it is to hold the memory of what should be visible. I am the only one left of that little group who travelled to visit Mrs. Gilmore in the late 50s. Tonight I hung my cell phone out the window of the Herman Melville room so my mom in Idaho could hear the surf at her old Newport Beach. She cried and so did I, for times past, family gone, and some things eternal–like the ocean that buffets this dear old hotel still,”
Robyn 3-23-93 (Melville room)

Another entry in the Melville room:

“Herman Melville…the great novelist. I particularly fancied his masterpiece ‘One Fish, two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish’. Or was that Dr. Suess?

From the Colette room:

September 2005 “Alone now. Wife dead, son dead, this sweet place resonates with affirmations of love and reminds this old fellow of things eternal. Blessings to all who follow.” Jack Clay, Seattle

And good advice from the Colette room journals:

“Never stay less than two nights, and never leave the premises during your stay unless you have to.”

Another member of the group responded:

“I have stayed up many a night reading the journals in the rooms..I was thrilled when I found entries from my Grandmother after she passed away…she loved SBH.

“The first night I ever stayed there, we had been driving up from the Shakespearean Festival and she went to bed quite early… I took all the journals from the room and started reading them. Then I read all the library/sitting room journals. I was joined by a guy who was staying there for the first time also..he hadn’t know about the journals so he went and got his from Oscar Wilde ~~ soon he was waking up his brother and sister-in-law in Collete and his parents in F.Scott Fitzgerald for theirs..we stayed up all night.
I have kept a journal since the 4th grade so I am way into the journals
Do you know about the Hidey Hole in Mark Twain where people leave gifts for the next people??”  (No, I don’t, but I am still Facebook friends with this person because of this chance imaginary meeting in the SBH group, so must ask her before we go!)

She wrote further: “Up in the library…there is a journal that is pink or purple pale? with fishes on it?? there is a photo of my Grandmother in it sitting in her favorite place in living room
While I stayed there in August, I hide chocolate treats etc… with clue in journals and it was so much fun to read after people found them…random acts of chocolate…in Emily Dickinson in older journal is a pen drawing by a new husband of his young bride in bed.. absolutely Brilliant!!!”

This reminded me to write: “I once put a stamp inside a journal in the Wilde room next to the entry to a woman who often wrote in that one…and asked her to drop me a postcard (with my address) and she did…We corresponded for a little while; this was before email was common or we might have stayed in touch.”  She used always to bring her Teddy bear and write about what he thought of the visit!

Another person added this to the thread:  “Your first entry on this thread mentions an octagenarian by the name of Edna. I have read many of the journals on my many stays but have not come across any with Edna’s entries.

I was very fortunate to have met Edna on her very first (of many) visits to the hotel. She walked the beach daily in her “nice clothes”, didn’t seem to mind getting blown by the wind. She had stories to tell of her life (England, New York, etc.) and you could find her either at breakfast with the whole table listing to her or later in the day/night up in the living room with guests sitting around her on the floor like little children listing to her tales.

On her second visit to the hotel, I happened to be there. She remembered me from the year before and asked about the “young man” that had been with me! Surprised me; she was a “sharp as a tack” as they say.

At that time, she mentioned that she was going to move to Portland. Her kids didn’t like the idea but she had all the details worked out and was going to tell the kids AFTER she was settled in her new location.

Just a beautiful person; anyone who actually got to met her will never forget her.”

Finally, some wrote with this about the mystery of the Mark Twain room girl:

“Flora, just for kicks I googled Megan W______ too and shot an email to the one who’s a cook/chef, telling her about this group and asking if you might have been referring to her. She wrote back saying it indeed is her, and that she’s flattered that you remember and she wants to get back to the hotel. I just wrote her back now to ask if she minds if I post what she wrote me. :)”

Oh my.  This all brings back how much I love the SBH and makes me wonder why I wait so long between visits.  I know why, really.  Being there is so perfect that when I come home I feel discontent with my life until…eventually….that Sylvia Beach longing wears off a bit, and then I want to stay contented with my life, so I put off going back.

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I had long admired a garden in Ocean Park known to to its owner Kathleen and her friends as Sea Garden.  For various reasons it had somewhat gone back to the wild over the past couple of years and had been damaged by falling trees during the big blow of December 2007.  In July of 2008 she hired us to spend six hours a week bringing the wildnerness back to a garden that she could peacefully enjoy during her time at the beach.  Her attention was divided between the coast and a beautiful city garden in Seattle.

Sea Garden porch

The garden still retained much of its original beauty even though the paths had closed in with foliage.

On July 3rd we brought the fenced vegetable area back to a space that was plantable.

veg area before and after

found stones

Smooth gleaming stones reappeared from under the soil.

We placed other found treasures on a garden table.

china shards

(When I had first been to Sea Garden back in the mid 90s I had been inspired by the way Kathleen used broken china in the garden.)

bird bath at Sea Garden, mid 90s.

The garden’s several human-made ponds had disappeared in verdant vegetation.  The water drew me to rediscover the main pond even though I meant to be working on paths.  By the water, we found these shoes that Kathleen had left behind one day.

lost shoes

We arranged more shiny rocks by a tiny little splash of a pond as a surprise for the returning gardener who appreciated such things.

stones, water

As we cleared areas of the garden patches of flowers began to thrive in the light.

daisies and alstroemeria

In the late summer we got to enjoy the lilies and hollyhocks on our weekly visits, usually to a garden of solitude.

late summer flowers

We would email photos of the flowers when Kathleen was too busy to visit.  Because the garden had lost a great deal of privacy when chainsaw happy neighbours had felled many trees and had installed horrid bright night lighting, we piled collected weeds and trimmings in a berm which we hoped might eventually return some of the secret garden feel that had been lost.

Old roses clambered within the small deer fenced enclosure uncaring of whether or not a human saw their blooms.  Frogs croaked mysteriously, not bothered by the irksome neighbours who drove past using their big car for several errands every day.

We began to weed, clip, and define in the back garden behind the house whose big windows gave a lovely view of the forest where maples provided the focal points.

window views

Throughout the summer and into the fall we continued to clear paths and revive the garden.  On October 30th we came to work and from every north window of the house and every vantage point of the back yard one maple dominated the scene.

just a glimpse

Even from the front porch, looking through the curtains, across the living room and out the back window, we could see a glimpse of the vibrant red leaves.

By November 10th only a hint of its glory remained.

 

30 October …….. 10 November

We cleared storm-felled branches, dead rose canes from two giant ramblers, and masses of weeds and almost beat back all the ivy from inside an old chicken shelter that held the poignancy of the hens having been attacked by raccoons….a lost paradise which could perhaps be turned into another deer proof garden.  I remembered when Kathleen used to stop by our Ilwaco house bearing a gift of fresh eggs.

clearing by the old chicken house

We continued to add considerable definition to the views of the back woods.

window views

As autumn waned Kathleen expressed more peace with the fully cleared paths and open areas but we could tell she was restless as she looked for a garden closer to the city and with more privacy from busy neighbours.

On one of the days when she was at Sea Garden we created some plant table vignettes in the back garden.

plant tables

In later autumn her quest for a northern garden intensified and she visited the beach less and less.

We laid bark on paths on a rainy 28th of November…

and captured these autumnal images to email to Kathleen…

Although we continued to check the house on into early December, we could tell the heart had gone out of this garden and indeed its owner did find a new place where she could create her own paradise in a setting with more land and more privacy.  These are the last photos I took at Sea Garden on my last visit there, 6 December, 2008.

sheer curtain

in the sun room

garden tool on window sill

What has become of the garden now I don’t know, and like my old garden that I left behind in February of 2011 I really don’t want to see it now, but instead am focused on gardens of the present.

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One afternoon in September I decided to give myself the tour experience within our own garden….to wander, to sit, to ponder and to observe.

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Looking back on the years in this garden I do wish I had found more time to sit, especially by the pond.  I’m not sure I could have done anything different, because work had to be done and bills had to be paid.  Now that I’ve willingly passed the house and garden into someone else’s hands these photos strongly bring back to me the sights and scents of the old garden.

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The garden we had created for Linda in memory of Rob Linderman had matured by June 2008 into a lovely haze of mostly blue, his favourite colour.  Here it is on June 25th:

Rob’s garden

From the deck of Linda’s beach house it’s an oasis of blue in a backdrop of beach grass and shorepines.

Rob’s blue oasis

To the right you can see the path that Rob and Linda used to take to the beach….

Throughout July we continued to maintain our garden in peak condition….here in sun and in shade.

left, Rosa mutabilis and sunny container; right, a shade planter

On Agust 7th we could declare the usual seasonal success in almost hiding the neighbour’s garage from the view in Marilyn’s garden.

Marilyn’s garden

The view in both directions down Marilyn’s path had me completely satisified.

Marilyn’s path

Marilyn’s daughter Nancy named it “The Healing Garden” because watching it helped her mom recuperate from a health crisis.  Here’s proof that a garden that two deer fawns nested and grew up in could still be beautiful and lush with deer resistant flowers.

August in Marilyn’s garden

As you can see, we did go from job to job rather than spend the summer lounging in our perfect garden.  Here, on August 18th, Laurie’s clump of Persicaria ‘Firetail’ arcs prettily behind her purple ceramic birdbath (from The Basket Case Greenhouse).

in Laurie’s garden

The gardens at Klipsan Beach Cottages looked luscious in pink and blue…sometimes a hard palette to achieve in late summer when flowers often run to oranges and yellows.

hydrangea, dahlia, sanguisorba

In September my friend Jeannine and I went on the Cannon Beach Cottage tour.  I had talked extensively about how wonderful it had been the previous year and how marvelous to get inside the historic cottages.  But the 2008 tour featured mostly rather plain, newer cottages on the east side of the highway and I was left with only three photos of details I wanted to recall.

geraniums

I loved this little inset of geraniums (pelargoniums) in a wall.  Annual geraniums always remind me of my grandmother.

And this wall of shelves in a cottage made the whole trip worthwhile even though the rest of the cottage interiors were too plain and modern for my taste.

a satisfying cottage wall

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Summer 2008 was indeed the year of glory for our garden.  August 12th saw the Vancouver garden club on tour; every year, one of their members goes on the Peninsula garden tour and chooses a few favourites, then requests a tour for her group a month later.  It did inspire me to keep the garden in peak form.

Allan took a photo of the tour from the loft window.

As I always like to do on tour days, I set out some of my favourite gardening books.  (I’d been pleased to see someone at the official Peninsula tour quite absorbed in Shocking Beauty by Thomas Hobbs.)

books on the entry garden patio

Usually I advised touring our garden from the lower to the upper level but this time we’ll go the opposite direction. The steps down to the pond level, thoroughly weeded by Allan before the big June tour, still looked perfect with just a little touch up.  The gardening ladies loved the assorted plant tables in the garden like this round table sedum display halfway down that showed off the collection I’d gotten from my friend Mike of Mu.

stairs from upper patio to landing halfway down to pond

We had all the water features burbling away: a bamboo trough waterfall outside our front door, the bamboo trough cascade behind the pond (below) and the flower pot water wheel.  The best water feature of all in this garden was always the cool-smelling, peaceful spring fed natural pond.

our pond looking over the mossy rock to the “island”, and the steep bank with bamboo water cascade

Just a dribble of water emerging mysteriously from the native ferns drew attention to the difficult-to-weed backside of the pond that looked better than it ever had before.

bamboo mini-waterfall

For the earlier tour I’d finally achieved a completed look to the difficult area under the big spruce tree.

in deep shade

Through the narrow walkway on the north side of the Spruce tree among the tree-like peeling trunks of big Fuchsia magellanica, the quotation walk had survived a month of little rain and I took great satisfaction in watching the garden club ladies read every notecard.

the fuchsia path

A friend of mine christened this “the fairy path”.  Perhaps I don’t want my clients to think too hard about the sentiment at right.  Oh well, I can always make a living just weeding!

Always, always float some flowers in every bird bath on garden tour day.

clay saucer bird bath

And never pass up a partly rotten old pedestal which could be put to temporary use in the garden.

Coming out from the shade of the Spruce tree and Fuchsia walk to the sunny lower garden….This Hebe, which I’d had for years, always kept the perfect shape.

Perfect Hebe

The lower sunny borders had finally come into their own in 2008 having been fluffed, raised up, and filled with lush plantings.

east side lower garden

north side lower garden

middle lower garden

The path which we had widened just before the middle tour looked so inviting that the gardening ladies walked up it, back through the fuchsia/quotation walk into which it led, around the Spruce tree and down again into the lower garden.  My favourite gardens always have me going around twice so this was particularly gratifying.

One tourist who stayed away this time was my neighbourhood deer.  During the official tour day I had found her in the lower garden eating from my one of my favourite rose bushes (Radway Sunrise) while assorted tour goers were at the other end admiring Allan’s garden!  For the smaller tour I was able to shut the lower gate because I knew the voracious deer would be lurking and waiting for any opportunity.

Looking back on summer 2008 from a new garden four years later makes me miss my pond and the satisfying feeling of an established garden.  Yet one reason we moved in 2010 was that we had achieved perfection in every corner of our garden and needed something new.  These photos make me realize how far my new garden is from being as tour-worthy as our old one, although if it were to be on the 2012 tour it might be of interest to see how much can be accomplished in a year and a half.

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For a job that I quit a a year later because of the Big Revelation of 2007. we created on a deck some container gardens that I simply adored all summer of 2008.

hanging baskets and planters

We checked them often, deadheaded, groomed.  It was my idea to have the flower containers guard the precious stained glass windows; the original seating arrangement for this outdoor dining area had metal chairs right next to the windows and I could see two terrible accidents waiting to happen.  A diner stands up and slams a shoulder into the heavy pointy bottom of the metal hanging baskets, or leans a chair back and shatters the irreplaceable window.  These are the sort of scenarios one must always ponder when public gardening.

You may recall the truck-damaged garden that we repaired in 2007.  I never put a final update on the 2007 blog so here are some photos from 6 August 2007 of how well those gardens recuperated with fluffy new soil and lavish use of painted sage along the edge.

a border of painted sage

repaired border with Cosmos, Painted Sage, Echinacea

On the other side of the paver and river rock path grew one of my favourite combinations:  Lilies with Melianthus Major.  Every winter I mulched and nurtured the Melianthus to bring it through.

Melianthus major and lilies

The same spot was equally beautiful on August 10th of 2006:

August 2006

How I defended those lilies with Sluggo!  The intense fragrance stopped passersby in their tracks.

When I had begun to care for this garden sometime in the mid to late 90s, it had only four predominant good plants in the front bed: shasta daisies, Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’ a Campanula, and some Yarrow.  They were joined by creeping buttercup so thick that on my first day of work there I removed a bushel basket of it in a very small area.  One end of the garden was infested with the deliberately planted (by a previous gardener) Bishop’s Weed, and bindweed twined throughout.  During my time there I added many the choice perennial and had quite a few returning guests tell me that they looked forward to seeing what new plant had appeared.  I have not looked closely at the garden since I departed but I suspect that the rampant pink ‘A.T. Johnson’ geranium and Rosa Rugosa ‘Alba’, both of which I kept firmly in check, may be taking back over again, and without constant battling I imagine that the Bishop’s Weed is creeping ever more determinedly through the other perennials.  Is the Melianthus major still there?  I rather doubt it.  It was ‘Antenow’s Blue’ by the way, the best steely blue (peanut butter scented) leaf of all.

Hardscaping note:  When the paver path was being laid I expressed concern about using river rocks between the round stepping stones.  Indeed, the round rocks frequently got kicked onto the pavers.  I always advise using tightly packed gravel (and never pea gravel) in a path that will have heavy foot traffic.

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approaching the garden

Standing in the driveway we could glimpse a lovely garden…

just outside the garden

…but to the right we saw and could not resist this boardwalk.  On one side a spur path ended mysteriously in beach grass; on the other, hostas were planted against the house.

boardwalk of mystery

The boardwalk segued into a gravel path and as it came round the side of the house…Ah, paradise.

paradise

When I saw the garden’s decorative touches I felt I had found a gardening soul mate.  Did I not have an old door of exactly this same faded red in my own garden (but without the clever sign).

To Life Boats

Every detail of the garden spoke to me.

gate and sit spot

Between garden beds and house a moss lawn grew in full sun.  I overheard the gardener telling other tour-goers (in left hand photo, to the right)that it was hard to grow the moss in full sun, but she had determination.

moss lawn

The back edge of the garden overlooked a swampy lake.  I wanted to sit on the red bench and talk plants with my sister gardener.

red bench with a view

Looking toward the house I realized that the cluster of other tour goers were acquaintances of mine from the Peninsula.  We all schmoozed for awhile but I was sort of glad when they meandered off and I could talk to the gardener with just her, me, and Allan!

garden tour-goers

I told her how much I liked the way the more casual area around the garden shed  flowed into the intensively planted beds near the house.

garden shed

A more private area at the corner of the house lay behind this magical gate which she said she and her spouse had constructed.

geared up gate

Well designed plantings afforded glimpses from here and there toward the central gazebo.

gazebo glimpse

The garden looked delightful from every angle.

different views

We expressed admiration for her garden, so perfect in every detail.

details

I even mentioned (I hope not in a scary way) my thought that she and I were soulmates in gardening style and gave her my card with email address and phone number.  She told us she sometimes visited the Peninsula and I said I would love her to come see my garden…which after all was looking really good that summer.  She looked a little more alternative and less polished than the very uspcale couple from the first garden…still glossier than me, but I could imagine us being friends.  Perhaps because I so missed the days when my friend Sheila had lived on the peninsula, I had high hopes for the fun and camaraderie of a new gardening friend.  I had not met anyone since Sheila who loved a spontaneous trip to a nursery (and who didn’t too much mind doing the driving while I paid for the gas).

gate

We left the garden with a last admiring look at another vignette of a unique gate backed with Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’.

I didn’t wait by the phone like someone lovelorn after a first date.  (I didn’t even check my cell phone for missed calls.)  For a few days I felt a frisson of hope when I checked my email but it was not to be.  I did not pine away but I do wish she had walked with me once through my garden.  I think in its way, in the summer of 2008, it was as good as hers, and I think she would have liked it.

I have never found a dreamy block to live on like that one in Gearhart where one would always have ready made gardener friends and gardens to visit back and forth.  From the first formal garden to the last cottagy and whimsical one this block in Gearhart was paradise indeed.

[2013 update:  In 2012 I finally made a gardening friend on my block in Ilwaco, Judy, whose political views and sense of humour also mesh well with mine!]

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